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Akron deserves more respect than it gets. Rather than dwell on its dismal reputation, let’s dive into its long list of fun things to do, starting with outdoor activities.
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a huge green space connecting southern Cleveland to Akron’s mid-section. Two Summit County Metroparks abut (or overlap, in one case) the National Park, and they do a splendid job of offering residents and visitors plenty of outside activities. Things to do in the park within a hop, skip and a jump of downtown Akron:
Things To Do In Akron
Hike, Bike or jog the Towpath Trail
From downtown Akron as far north as you care to go. A shorter trip awaits if you head south, but either way, you can make a day-long bike trip of it, and enjoy beautiful scenery (good birdwatching!) and historical sights along the way.
Visit the 70-foot tumble of Brandywine Falls for a breathtaking vista and a chance to say out loud, “I didn’t know Ohio could be this beautiful!“
Take in a naturalist program
These vary by season, and they vary widely. You might learn how to throw a boomerang or how to canoe; you might follow a lantern tour of an Underground Railroad route escaping slaves followed before and during the civil war; you just listen to local ghost stories told by a ranger around a campfire. Check the calendar at the park’s website. Most of the programs are free or less than $10. While you’re looking at the calendar, you’ll probably find a few free, outdoor concerts to choose from.
More outside fun can be had in Akron’s own city parks, each one named for the neighbourhood in which it sits. (Akron’s many unique neighbourhoods provide the city with a lot of different flavours and activities.) There’s Goodyear Park, named for the tire magnate, and the F.A. Seiberling Naturealm, a must-stop spot for kids of all ages and flower- and tree aficionados.
Inside the nature centre, a bird-watching window offers a colourful show year-round, and another exhibit shows what it would be like if you could spend a day at the bottom of a pond, seeing it through the eyes of an aquatic insect. All of the pond’s insects and plants are built to scale, twelve times their actual size. It’s a real education–except perhaps for biologists.
During the winter months, rent cross-country skis at the park’s winter sports complex, ice skate on Kendall Lake, or visit Brandywine/Boston Mills ski complex for snowboarding, tubing, and downhill skiing on their 19 slopes.
During the summer, families crowd WaterWorks Park in Cuyahoga Falls, and for good reason. The park’s dozens of slides, chutes and other splashy playthings make kids happy and adults happy and tired. (Note: While Waterworks is perfect for elementary school-age kids and up, there’s little to do for babies and toddlers.)
The Akron Zoo
One more outdoor stop sure to please nature-lovers: The Akron Zoo. Serious expansions are underway and have already wowed visitors. Legends of the Wild is one of the most impressive, with a 30-foot waterfall and more than 30 new animal species on display. Among those: Llamas you can feed, and hyacinth macaws whose bright feathers cry out to the color film in your camera (or disk in your digital). In the back of the zoo, kids love to run through the “dancing” fountains–but parents should note, they’ll get wet!
Concerts and theatre venues
If you’re seeking nightlife, not wildlife, Akron has plenty of options. Lock3 Live is the city’s showcase attraction in the warmer months. Outdoor music shows and festivals draw crowds from May to September.
Several concerts and theatre venues in Akron have recently enjoyed impressive renovations, including and perhaps especially, The Akron Civic Theatre. For those who like dinner theatre, Akron’s Carousel Theatre offers a full-service menu and a Broadway show at a very good value.
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
Architecture and history buffs (and just about everyone else) will enjoy a day at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. The mansion and grounds, once home to F.A. Seiberling, have been restored to unbelievable splendour, and the estate has become a local favourite and a must-see spot for tourists to Northeast Ohio.
Sporty types should be sure to catch an Aeros baseball game at the delightful Canal Park, where there are only good seats (and a good chance to catch a fly ball). Or, whether a participant or a spectator, head to Akron Skate Park where skateboarders united to create an impressive set of obstacles and skating fun for various skill levels. Half pipes, a four-sided pyramid, three bowls, plus stairs and a ledge keep the wheels rollin’ on this concrete attraction near the airport and Rubber Bowl.
Shopping & Restaurants
If your favourite thing to do is shop, be sure to visit Don Drumm Studio, where you can decorate your home with eclectic art in aluminium, steel, glass, and other materials.
If food is what you like to shop for, head to the West Point Market for their array of gourmet cheeses, wines, chocolates, meats, and more. In fact, the market’s cafe is a good place for lunch. But don’t forget about dinner…
Some of Akron’s finest dining experiences can be had at Tangier (Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and American dishes), and at Ken Stewart’s Lodge. Stewart’s place is pricier and more eclectic; both offer a classy and impressive dining experience.
Another fun place to book dinner reservations: The 356th Fighter Group Restaurant offers the chain’s trademark airport-runway dining experience, but in this case, you can plan to hit Akron’s own MAPS air museum before you dine. You might say it hits a high note, just like this city, perched in and around the edges of the great Cuyahoga Valley.
Finally, if you really want to see the “high” points of Akron, consider taking a hot-air balloon ride. Several local outfits take guests up and over the Rubber City’s highlights. Start with a call to America’s Unknown Destinations or to Fun Makers.
Whatever you do on this list, you’ll certainly agree that Akron is a city that’s on the rise.